If you are interested in gathering data and making measurements about the earth’s surface, then you can consider a career as a survey technician. In this profession, you will be working as part of a survey party comprised of a chief who is usually a licensed surveyor and other survey technicians and assistants. You will be going to various locations to do surveys and measurements of real estate boundaries and other areas. Using various types of equipment and instruments, you will be collecting the data you need on the field and then later on, feeding it into computers in order to process the information.
During your survey, you will be establishing stakes and markers to determine your survey points and then retrieving them afterwards. You may also need to look for earlier survey points when seeking to reestablish them. You will also be assisting the chief surveyor or senior survey technician with whatever they ask of you.
You will be using the latest technologies to do your job. For instance, you need to know how to use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Sophisticated technological equipment has made it easier for survey technicians and surveyors to perform needed calculations even while on the field.
One of the skills that survey technicians must have in good measure is accuracy. As mentioned, technology has made measurements and calculations easier now because of the use of advanced equipment. Despite this, you still need to ensure that you do your work with an eye for precision. This also requires a high degree of concentrations. In addition, you must be a good listener. This is necessary for you to follow instructions. In the field, the members of the survey party will often disperse and they will be working far away from each other. In order to save time and ensure that the work will be done correctly, the ability to listen to and heed instructions will be paramount.
In case something happens in the field which was not included in the orders given by the party chief, you must draw upon your knowledge and experience to determine the best course of action to take. For instance, if your equipment breaks, you need to know what the problem is and what solution to give. Since field work is physically demanding, you need to be physically fit and healthy for this job.
Why Become A Survey Technician
Those who have an inherent love for math and measurements will find this career extremely satisfying. It is also an occupation for those who love to travel and work in the outdoors. There are also opportunities for advancement in this career as a senior survey technician or even as a licensed surveyor for those who aspire for higher positions.
On the more practical side, a career as a survey technician has good prospects for employment in the next few years. It also provides decent pay.
Survey Technician Work Environment
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that in 2012, majority of the survey and mapping technicians were employed by engineering, survey and mapping companies. Some of them were hired in the highway and planning departments of state and local governments.
While they may have to report to the office to run data or write reports, survey technicians often have to do their work on the field. They carry heavy instruments and equipment and are expected to walk long distances. Travel is needed in cases when the worksite is far from technician’s residence and staying in that site for long periods of time may be necessary to get the work done.
The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wage for survey and mapping technicians is $43,540. The agency reported in 2012 that the lowest paid survey and mapping technicians got less than $24,180 while the highest paid received more than $65,870. In that year, the median wage was $39,670.
Survey Technician Career Outlook
The employment outlook of survey technicians is quite rosy. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that their employment rate is set to rise 14 percent in the decade covering 2012 to 2022. This is as fast as the average for all job types. Thus, from the 54,000 survey and mapping technicians employed in 2012, the number is forecasted to rise to 61,300 in 2022.
The demand will come from the advances made in mapping technology which paved the need to synchronize traditional maps with those made using GIS and other sophisticated systems. As a result, more survey technicians will be hired for the job.
While there will be more job opportunities, especially with older workers retiring, the competition will remain tough. The best prospects will go to those who know how to use and are trained in the use of GPS and GIS.
Survey Technician Degree
The educational requirement for survey technicians is a high school diploma or its equivalent. However, having postsecondary training in survey technology would greatly enhance their job prospects. A good preparation for high school students who want to work in this field is to take up math courses such as algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Courses in drafting and mechanical drawing as well as in computer science would also be very advantageous.
Survey technicians generally learn on the job. Under the supervision and guidance of a surveyor or chief of the survey party, they first learn basic tasks like putting site markers and entering data. As they become more skilled, they are taught land measurement strategies until such time that they are able to determine how and where land is going to be measured. Survey technicians can then get an apprenticeship or an associate degree which would further enhance their math, technical drawing and drafting skills.
Certification has become quite common among survey and mapping technicians. The Certified Survey Technician credential can be obtained from the National Society of Professional Surveyors. There is also a certification program from the GIS Certification Institute for those who want to focus on database management of survey and mapping data.
As survey technicians get more experience and added training, they can work as senior survey technicians and even head a survey party. They may also become licensed surveyors but will have to comply with the licensing requirements of the state they work in.